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“National governments should lead autonomous UAM programmes in cities”

“For autonomous on road vehicles (AVs), national governments were found to be the most trusted by lay citizens to lead the development and implementation of AVs in cities (Chng et al., 2021),” according to a new research paper “A Future with Autonomous Urban Air Mobility” by the Aviation Studies Institute, based at the Singapore University of Technology and Design. “This likely reflects the view that the government will safeguard citizens’ interests with integrity while possessing the requisite authority to develop and set standards and regulate the technology (Hamm et al., 2019, Siegrist et al., 2000). The industry sector (e.g., OEMs) is recognized to possess the financial motivation and technical expertise required to develop safe and effective AV solutions. Nevertheless, there are reservations about whether citizens’ interests will be safeguarded or prioritized by this sector. Similar views will likely be found for AUAM. Hence, governments should seek to instil confidence and trust in industrial developments AUAM through stringent regulation and oversight that serve to safeguard and promote the interests of their citizens.”

The paper also addresses some of psychological challenges of individuals contemplating autonomous air vehicles flying in their cities.

“Even as lay citizens might know little about autonomous technologies like AVs and autonomous urban air mobility (AUAM), they often possess a multi-layered mental model of these autonomous mobility technologies that needs to be considered during development, trial and implementation (Chng et al., 2021). At the core of this multi-layered mental model is the micro or individual-centric focus on the understanding, familiarity and perception of the technology. Issues such as the safety and reliability of autonomous technologies in AVs and AUAM will be key issues (Hulse et al., 2018). The next meso level will see the individual focus on issues surrounding the implementation of autonomous technology. This concerns whether the individual is able to comprehend and envision how the technology might be deployed in their cities and what this development means for them. Arising questions for the individual would include: Does this improve my life in this city?

“At the final, macro, level, individuals deliberate on the extra-personal impacts of the introduction of these autonomous technologies. This includes economic, social and environmental impacts and debates about who within society should oversee its development and implementation. The presence of this multi-layered mental model highlights the need for a systematic and phased approach when introducing autonomous mobility innovations to the public, starting from enhancing individual knowledge and familiarity before introducing how they will be deployed to the benefit of the city and society.”

The researchers have compiled a list of recommendations:

  • Develop a comprehensive, user-centric strategy for preparing the public and cities for the testing and introduction of (autonomous) urban air mobility in cities.
  • Address the current limited understanding of public acceptance and readiness for the testing and introduction of (autonomous) urban air mobility in cities with systematic investigations and engagements with lay citizens, community groups and relevant stakeholders.
  • City and transportation authorities need to prepare an implementation roadmap for (autonomous) urban air mobility in cities.
  • Technical requirements and standards, and operation parameters regulating the development of (autonomous) urban air mobility services in cities to ensure they do not negatively impact the quality of life in cities need to be developed to support the development of (autonomous) urban air mobility services by the industry.

For more information

ASI White Paper: A Future with Autonomous Urban Air Mobility

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